Feynman @ EOL; Tuva, and Much Ado About Almost Nothing

This is an astounding video about the nowhere land of Tuva, Feynman at almost his end of life, and how a small thing can turn into a romantic obsession. Tuva. Middle of nearly nowhere. North of Mongolia. Barely inside Russia / USSR. And a kid who saw some stamps once, and later was a Nobel Physicist who didn’t forget his inner child.

I’ve felt his same rush of energy about solving the “puzzle” and about some of the same things he has mentioned. I, fortunately or not, have also felt the dead hand of prudence telling me it was a waste of time to ponder Mayan Codex or Egyptian Stele writings… Perhaps that is all the difference in the world. I watch and listen to Feynman and think he is a person after my own heart, a person whom I’d love to split a loaf of Ciabatta and a bottle (or two) of wine with and discuss “stupid questions” and odd desires for pointless quests… Yet “Prudence” tells me to shut up and get to work… Could it be that simple? Is it only enthusiasm without the boot on the neck, coupled with some raw ability, that is the difference between those who “go there” and those who dream of going there?
Hard to say…

In any case, this is a charming video of a brilliant guy, faced with clearly knowing it is EOL time for him, and deciding, as I was told by a clerk at the Australian Embassy in about 1982, “Life is what you make it, now, isn’t it?” so deciding to make his fun to the end.

At the 30 minute point, it covers his POV on the shuttle disaster investigation. “…For nature cannot be fooled.”

For all who love the idea of adventure, this is the story of a life driven by adventure and investigation… and a little bit about how countries game each other on who gets to go where…

The only sadness is that a great life was cut too short to have that magic moment when a long term goal is now a fond memory. Yet whimsy, it’s a thing…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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12 Responses to Feynman @ EOL; Tuva, and Much Ado About Almost Nothing

  1. E.M.Smith says:

    OMG, this is fun:

  2. gallopingcamel says:


  3. E.M.Smith says:

    Yeah, fun to see “behind the curtain” isn’t it? 8-)

    Reminds me of some folks I know… ;-)

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    I probably ought to mention that when I was in the NASA study of social isolation & circadian rhythms; we were in this box for 105 days without any live outside contact other than the ‘control center’ via an intercom. Knowing this going in, i “snuck in” the parts for a minimal crystal radio. A very small diode (glass pack) and an earphone and an LC bit… plus a length of very fine wire for an antenna.

    I never did anything at all with it ( I didn’t want to spoil the validity of the experiment). I just wanted to play the game of finding out if it could be done… (Shades of Feynman and codes…) I’ve also created a couple of codes in my life (but not shared them with anyone) along with learning Morris Code and a few others. Seems ‘puzzle solving’ is a common trait in a certain kind of person…

    I could see me doing every one of the “hy-jinks” he said he did. And for the same reasons…

    To some extent the same kind of culture existed at Apple in the early years when I was there. A “get it done and damn how or restrictions or rules” kind of attitude. How else would a guy like me end up running a SuperComputer Site? (but while all other sites had a staff of about 200 or more, we did it with a technical staff of about 6 and an all up staff of under 40 including the secretary and the guys who did networking to Engineering…) Creative people let off leash can do wonders…

  5. beththeserf says:

    When yer happen to be in those dark moments apropos the human condition, :(
    say, mebbe listen to a musical performance, (Karl Richter,) of Bach’s Brandenburg
    Concerto.. or.mebbe read some Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander novels,
    OMG, or tune in to u-tube Feynman on curiosity, … any of ’em heighten yer
    appreciation of humans extending themselves…Yer get something of the above,
    sometimes, from Chiefio ‘n commentators. A serf musing…

  6. H.R. says:

    @beth: “[…] Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto […]”

    Numbers One and Three are my favorites of the Brandenburg Concertos. In his time, Bach was even better known for his performance capabilities over his compositions and the big dogs of composing were Handel and Telemann. If you ask any head-banging rocker today about the three, Bach is about the only one who will generate a flicker of name recognition, aside from the “One Hit Wonder” of Handel’s Messiah.

  7. Jeff says:

    What about Handel’s “Water Music”? Snowflakes viewing KQED (PBS) would be well aware of that music….. in his day, Handel had hundreds of hits…..

  8. H.R. says:

    I’m just talking about head banging rockers and what has survived into popular culture of today, Jeff. If you asked today’s young’uns to name composers of the time, I doubt that that you’d get Telemann. You might get Handel, if you ask close to Christmas. But I’d bet a quarter that you’d get Bach. Beethoven has aged well, too.

  9. H.R. says:

    Oops! I blew by your point about snowflakes. I dunno about them. I don’t know many snowflakes, haven’t read much written by them, but I’ve enjoyed videos of them melting away in their native habitat wearing their traditional costumes.

  10. D. J. Hawkins says:

    A great sadness came over me at the end of the video, knowing that Feynman, like Moses, was denied entry into the promised land. Well, at least the one he strove toward on this physical plane. Here’s hoping that wherever he is, he’s still asking interesting and/or uncomfortable questions.

  11. beththeserf says:

    H.R. yes that 3rd Brandenburg. That bit around 3.40 descending then ascending,
    llike someone said about Keats poetry, ‘a confluence of values.’

  12. gallopingcamel says:

    I don’t have a musical bone in my body but J.S. Bach is for me.

    There are so many interpretations and all of them have merit. I love Dave Brubeck with unforgettable works like “Take Five”. If only he was more of a Bach fan. In my imagination Jacques Loussier “does Bach” as Dave Brubeck would have. Enjoy!

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